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For centuries, people have relied on their 5 senses; sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing all can work together or separately. The sense I focus on in this article is the sense of smell.

Aroma therapy is derived from two words. Aroma- meaning fragrance or smell and Therapy-meaning treatment. Aroma therapy was used by the most ancient civilizations and is reputed to be at least 6000 years old. It is widely thought that Aroma therapy began in Egypt. A medical papyri considered to date back to around 1500 BC contains remedies for all types of illnesses and the methods of application are similar to the one used in Aroma therapy and Herbal medicine today.

The Egyptians used a method known as infusion (this process is described later on) to extract the oils from aromatic plants and incense was probably one of the earliest ways of using aromatics. Frank-in-sense was burned at sun rise as an offering to the sun god, Ra and myrrh was offered to the moon. The Egyptians were experts at embalming using aromatics to help preserve flesh. The Egyptians used to be massaged with fragrant oils after bathing.

The Greeks continued the use of aromatic oils and used them medicinally and cosmetically. A Greek physician, Pedacius Dioscoride, wrote a book about herbal medicine and for at least 1,200 years as the Western world's standard medical reference. Many of the remedies he mentions are still in use today in Aroma therapy

The Romans took much of their medical knowledge from the Greeks and went on to use and improve the ability of aromatics with Rome becoming the bathing capital of the world. After bathing they would be oiled and massaged. The Romans started to import new aromatic products from East India and Arabia through the opening up of trade routes. During the crusades the knowledge of aromatic oils and perfumes spread to the Far East and Arabia and it was a physician called Avicenna who lived from A.D 980 to A.D 1037 that is understood to have first used the process known as distillation to distil essence of rose, although it probably took many years to perfect the process. (This process will be described later).

The Arabs also discovered how to distil alcohol around the same time making it possible to produce perfumes without a heavy oily base. There is a strong possibility that he ancient Chinese civilizations were using some form of aromatics at the same time as the Egyptians. Shen Nung's Herbal book is the oldest surviving medical book in China which is dated about 2700 B.C. and contains information on over 300 plants. The Chinese used aromatic herbs and burned aromatic woods and incense to show respect to God.

Traditional Indian medicine known as ayurveda has been practiced for more than 3,000 years and it incorporates aromatic massage as one of its main aspects. The invasions of South America by the conquistadors brought about the discovery of more medicinal plants and aromatic oils as the Aztecs were well known for their plant remedies and the Spanish were amazed at the wealth of medicinal plants found in Montezuma's botanical gardens. The North American Indians also used aromatic oils and produced their own herbal remedies It wasn't until the 19th century that scientist in Europe and Great Britain began researching the effects of essential oils on bacteria in humans.

A French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, began his research into the healing powers of essential oils after burning his hand in his laboratory and immersing in it in lavender oil and being impress by how quickly the burn healed. In1937 he published a book about the anti-microbial effects of the oils and coined the word Aroma therapy. He went on to set up a business producing oils for use in fragrances and cosmetics. Around the same time another Frenchman, Albert Couvreur, published a book on the medicinal uses of essential oils. A French medical doctor Jean Valnet discovered Gattefosse's research and began experimenting with essential oils. Around the same time, Margaret Maury, a French biochemist developed a unique method of applying these oils to the skin with massage. Micheline Arcier, living in London, studied and ked with Maury and Valnet and their combined techniques created a form of Aromatherapy now used all over the world. Essential oils are very expensive to produce some more so than others, due to the labor intensive process and the quantity of the plant required to produce the of oil approximately 400Kg of thyme would produce1Kg of essential oil, 2000Kg of rose petals to make 1Kg of oil, 6 tones of orange blossom to produce 1Kg of oil, and 4 million jasmine flowers to produce 1kg of jasmine absolute.

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived. The odors of fruits waft me to my southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief. Even as I think of smells, my nose is full of scents that start to awake sweet memories of summers gone and ripening fields far away."

This eloquent quote expressed by Helen Keller so vividly says what many of us experience when exposed to aromas. Smell is the sense that reaches deeply and quickly into our emotional center to evoke feelings and memories of our past.

When was the last time you paused and took notice of an aroma? When did a certain scent evoke nostalgia by transporting you to that specific experience? Has scent soothed your anxiety, relieved insomnia or spiced up your social interactions? Odor molecules are chemical communicators that give specific and potent messages. "Neuroscience", the study of the sense of smell, has become the "haute couture" of the academic world.

Aromatherapy Benefits

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from plants and herbs to treat conditions ranging from infections and skin disorders to immune deficiencies and stress. Essential oils are widely used throughout Europe and a system of medical aromatherapy is currently practiced in France.

Aromatherapy has recently found its way into mainstream science in the United States. The National Institutes of Health in 1992 officially recognized "unconventional medical practices" and began a study to integrate these practices into modern health care. Among the unconventional treatments; herbal medicine, of which aromatherapy is a branch.

"Aromatherapy works two fold," according to Michael Scholes, president of Aromatherapy Seminars, Los Angeles, California. "These essences have a smell that, when inhaled, is processed in an area of the brain that controls emotions. They penetrate the skin to get into the bloodstream and the immune system to work in a physiological method."

Steam Bathing & Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can be used in conjunction with steam baths to enhance the effects of the steam bath and create a range of added benefits. The aromas in the following recipes are placed in the aromatherapy diffuser of your aroma Spa or can be used mixed with a quart of water and used in a pan of water.

For General Relaxing Effect
Clary Sage 2 drops
Sandalwood 4 drops

Menopause Ease
Chamomile 2 drops
Geranium 2 drops
Cyprus 1 drops

Hot Flashes
Geranium 2 drops
Clary Sage 2 drops
Lemon 1 drop

Fatigue Fighter
Lavender 2 drops
Clary Sage 2 drops
Lemon 1 drop

Mood Lifter
Benzoin 3 drops
Ylang-Ylang 2 drops
Jasmine 1 drop
Neroli 1 drop
Rose 1 drop
Sandalwood 2 drops

Using oils in baths is a simple, effective and pleasant way to relax and receive the therapeutic effects. - Water itself has therapeutic value which enhances the powers of the oils. To use, add 6 to 10 drops of essential oil, (or a blend), to the surface of the water which has already been run, add no other substances, e.g. foam or bath oil, then immerse yourself for about 20 minutes. The heat of the water aids absorption through the skin, whilst you inhale the vapor. (Again reduce the amount of oils used in baths for babies).

Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to 100ml of warm water then soak a piece of clean cotton in the water. Wring out the excess water and place the cloth on the affected part of the body.

Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil into a bowl of steaming water, then place a towel over your head and the bowl and inhale the vapor for a few minutes. you can also purchase steamers made especially for Aroma Therapy.

This is the most effective method of using the oils, combining their properties with the therapeutic power of touch. The oils (diluted to 5% in a carrier oil) are massaged into and absorbed by the skin. They are put into the blood stream and sent to the relevant parts of the body quickly and effectively.

You can make your own distinctive and personal perfume by blending different oils with unscented alcohol or a carrier oil. Apply as you would normally use perfume.

Because essential oils evaporate easily and create different mental and emotional atmospheres, they make excellent air fresheners. There are several ways to vaporize oils effectively- from a store bought vaporizer or a potpourri burner to placing a few drops of the oils in simmering pot of water on a stove top or radiator.

Mixing Essential Oils
Two major reasons why pure Essential Oils need to be diluted are... Pure Essential Oils are too strong and concentrated to be used directly on the skin.
Small quantities of pure Essential Oils can be very expensive and will not go very far.
Therefore they are diluted with carrier or base oil. Diluting oils will last longer, cover a much larger area and yet remain just as effective as the pure oils.
It is recommended that you use a dropper so that you can measure the actual number of drops easily. Use a different dropper for each oil to avoid cross contamination. When mixing oils you should use no more than nine drops of pure Essential Oil to one tablespoon of a carrier oil.

Recommended Carrier Oils
Oils which are termed "Extra Virgin" or "Cold Pressed" are the best carrier oils to use. Also the oils which themselves have no or a minimum of aroma are suitable to allow the Essential Oils themselves to work best.
Sweet Almond: The first choice of many aromatherapists as it is good for all skin types.
Grapeseed: A good second choice carrier especially for those whose skin seems not to absorb other oils very quickly.

Apricot Kernel: This oil is good for all skin types, but is especially good for sensitive or prematurely aged skin.
Peach Kernel: This oil is good for all skin types as it is rich and nourishing.
Olive: Used in a 10% dilution, for dry skin, hair care and cosmetics.
Soya: This oil is good for all skin types and can be used undiluted with other carrier oils.
Sunflower Seed: Can be used 100%
Sesame Seed: Used as a 10% addition to other carrier oils. Can assist with psoriasis, eczema, rheumatism, and arthritis.
Coconut: Usually deodorized for use in aromatherapy coconut oil can aid tanning and is reputed to filter the sun's rays.
Avocado: Used as an addition to other base oils, 10% to 25%. It is good for eczema and dry skin.
Wheatgerm: Used 10% in a mixture. Helps eczema, psoriasis, prematurely aged skin, and slows down mixed blends of oils from deterioration.
Jojoba: Jojoba is more of a liquid wax than an oil. Use as a 10% addition to other oils.

Essential Oils
Attracting a Man: Ambergris, Gardenia, Ginger, Jasmine, Lavender, Musk, Neroli, Tonka
Attracting a Woman: Bay, Civet, Musk, Patchouli, Stephanotis, Vetivert, Violet
Courage: Cedar, Musk, Rose Geranium
Fertility: Musk, Vervain
Friendships: Stephanotis, Sweetpea
Happiness: Apple Blossom, Sweetpea, Tuberose
Harmony: Basil, Gardenia, Lilac, Narcissus
Healing: Carnation, Eucalyptus, Gardenia, Lotus, Myrrh, Narcissus, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Violet
Insomnia: Lavender, Narcissus
Love: Clove, Gardenia, Jasmine, Orris, Plumeria, Rose, Sweetpea
Luck: Cinnamon, Cypress, Lotus
Lust: Cinnamon, Clove, Musk, Vanilla
Meditation: Acacia, Hyacinth, Jasmine, Magnolia, Myrrh, Nutmeg
Mental Powers (Strengthen): Moneysuckle, Lilac, Rosemary
Money: Almond, Bayberry, Bergamot, Honeysuckle, Mint, Patchouli, Pine, Vervain
Peace: Benzoin, Cumin, Gardenia, Hyacinth, Magnolia, Rose, Tuberose
Power: Carnation, Rosemary, Vanilla
Protection: Cypress, Myrrh, Patchouli, Rose Geranium, Rosemary, Rue, Violet, Wisteria
Psychic Powers (Enhance): Acacia, Anise, Cassia, Heliotrope, Lemongrass, Lilac, Mimosa, Nutmeg, Sandalwood, Tuberose
Purifications: Acacia, Cinnamon, Clove, Frankincense, Jasmine, Lavender, Myrrh, Olive, Sandalwood
Vitality: Allspice, Carnation, Rosemary, Vanilla

Storing Essential Oils
Because essential oils are affected by sunlight they should be stored in dark tinted glass bottles with stopper caps. Make sure that the cap is on securely and the bottle stored up-right in a cool dark place to prevent the oils from evaporating. Always remember to keep the bottles out of reach (and sight) of children as the oils can be hazardous if swallowed or cause irritation of undiluted essential oils are applied to the skin. Never store essential oils in plastic bottles. Good Essential oils should keep for several years if properly stored.

The following are a few recipes for aroma products:

This bath salts recipe is fairly easy to make. It will help you feel more energized.

Ingredients needed:

1 c. Epsom salts
1 c. course salt
10-20 drops green food coloring
6 drops eucalyptus oil
10 drops rosemary oil
15 drops peppermint oil

Mix salts in a large bowl. In smaller bowl take 1/4-1/2 cup salt mixture and add oils. MIX WELL. Add back into rest of salt mixture.

Store in airtight container.

Put a few teaspoons of the salts in your bath water.

I have purchased these for way too much money in the past. I now make my own. It's a fun activity to share with the kids. Once they are dry you just toss one into the tub and enjoy!

Very simple, very easy and very inexpensive. I like to make them the size of golf balls all the way up to the size of baseballs.

Plain Bath Fizzies

1 cup of baking soda
1/2 cup of citric acid
1/2 cup of cornstarch
2 T. of coconut, almond or other oil
1 T. of water

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix liquid oil and water and drizzle onto dry ingredients slowly while stirring together. Shape into balls and let dry 24-48 hours.

Simple Bath Bombs

10 T. baking soda
5 T. cornstarch
5 T. citric acid
1 1/2 T. safflower, sweet almond, or canola oil
1/2 T. water
small amt of borax (1/2 tsp.)
1 T. fragrance oil or essential oil of your choice

Sieve all dry ingredients. Mix oil, water, borax, and scent in a jar - make sure to shake well. Drizzle this mixture onto the dry ingredients and then work it in with your hands. Press into a mold and then carefully pop them out. Let set for at least 24 hours to be totally hardened.